John Beswick comments from Manchester on the recent terrorist attacks.
At 17.20 this evening the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police gave what has become the standard reaction to mass murder in Western Europe. He condemned the barbarity of the attack, signalled his admiration for the relevant first responders, and asked for the patience of the public throughout the ongoing investigation. The increasing normality of this kind of press statement creates the impression that such an ordeal is now something akin to a natural disaster. You focus on the victims and hope for the best, steadfast in your convenient avoidance of the most unpalatable of truths: you are powerless, at the whim of the forces of chaos and unable to stop the same thing from happening again and again. Security measures aside, this is probably more accurate than it is not, and so if Chief Constable Hopkins had chosen to end his speech at that point one couldn’t have found much of note to dwell upon. Aside from the absurdity of how banal such a response has become.
Yet it was the way in which he chose to end his statement that this writer found to be particularly perverse. With the eyes of the nation upon him, he took the opportunity to warn any opportunistic trouble maker that hatred in the aftermath of this mass murder would not be tolerated. Not violent reprisal or incitement to do the same, but hatred. The people of Manchester, he claimed, are a diverse and tolerant people who would not react in the hate-filled way that the attacker and those who aided him would surely have wanted. Well, I am from Manchester, and sitting this evening in the Mancunian home I was brought up in I can tell you that Chief Constable Hopkins does not speak for me. More importantly, he has absolutely no right to pretend that he does, or indeed that any of my fellow citizens gave him permission to do so.
I am full to the brim with hatred today, and if that is now illegal then so be it. I hate the man who carried out this attack with a passion that is unnerving. I hate the misplaced masochism that leads people to view his deeds as a warped response to the pervasive and all-consuming racism of the liberal West. I hate the hollow and solipsistic garbage spouted daily by those who think that indiscriminate programmes of mass murder are a political reaction to US foreign policy and European colonialism. I hate the perverted religious world view that Salman Abedi subscribed to; the one whose vitriol is matched only by its vacuousness. The one that lead him to think it would be a good idea to turn himself into a human nail bomb and detonate in a place that was populated by teenage girls and children. Most of all I hate him. Him and the people who share in that world view, who have done or would do the same thing as he did.
It is a hatred that is not unbridled nor uncontrollable, but absolute and undiluted by anything remotely conflictual. Unlike with almost every other emotive response in life, there is no foggy resonance in the back of my mind giving cause to doubt its veracity. Nor is it particularly complicated or irrational: In the early hours of Monday morning, Salman Abedi decided it would be a valuable use of his life to explode shards of metal into the faces and bodies of young people. Not only instantly murdering some, but also causing the slow and painful death of others… and I definitively and unreservedly hate him for it.
I will spend the rest of my cognizant life rejecting as immoral fools anyone who tells me that I shouldn’t think or feel this way, or anyone who spews out that saccharine and infuriating platitude about love always trumping hate. The briefest of historical analysis will show this not to be the case. Hate is one of the great catalysts of human activity, it should be harbored for positive results by soberly reflecting upon it. Try to ignore it within your own psyche and it could manifest in more insidious ways, or even explode into violence at a time when you are unable to master it. Try to command and control it within others and risk it metastasizing into the forces of nationalistic reaction and racial prejudice.
It was from this understandable perspective that the Chief Constable addressed the public. He is charged with keeping the peace, and so ensuring the absence of mob based violence is his paramount concern. Understandable, but unwarranted. The vast majority of people know that attacking those who share the same religion or skin colour as Salman Abedi is as ludicrous as it is repugnant. The minority who don’t are not going to be persuaded by the words of a man on the news. However, by pushing this same old formula of grief, shock at how this could happen, public show of solidarity and love, rinse and repeat, we risk creating a template for dealing with tragedy that is condescending beyond belief. Once the usual hashtags and platitudes have subsided, hatred for this man and those like him might be the best available option for breaking the cycle.
John Beswick is a graduate student in International Relations at Leiden University.
Photo by James Bowe